Volunteers observe whales during second ocean count event

  • Courtesy photo

    People watch for whales during a count day Feb. 23 at Mokuleia on the North Shore of Oahu.

More than 612 volunteers gathered data from the shores of Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii Island during the second event of the 2019 Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count, and on Maui with the Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation.

This is the first year both counts are coordinated on the same days, ensuring the data from all main islands is collected simultaneously. It also is the first year Pacific Whale Foundation expanded its Great Whale Count on Maui from one month to three.

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Combined, volunteers collected data from 55 sites on Feb. 23. A total of 372 whale sightings were made from 8:30-8:45 a.m., the most of any time period throughout the day.

Sanctuary Ocean Count volunteers collected data from 43 sites. A total of 278 whale sightings were made from 8:30-8:45 a.m., the most of any time period throughout the day. Great Whale Count volunteers collected data from 12 sites. A total of 774 whales were seen throughout the day.

Weather conditions were nearly perfect. Although, several sites on Maui and Hawaii Island did experience some rain during the event.

The ocean count promotes public awareness about humpback whales, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and shore-based whale watching opportunities. Volunteer participants tally humpback whale sightings and document the animals’ surface behavior during the survey.

The Great Whale Count brings volunteers together to count whales from shore as part of a long-term survey of humpback whales in Hawaii. This event provides a snapshot of trends in relative abundance of whales and is one of the world’s longest-running citizen scientist projects.

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Preliminary data detailing Sanctuary Ocean Count whale sightings by site location are available at https://oceancount.org/resources/. Additional information will be available on Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s website at hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov.

Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count data can be found at mauiwhalefestival.org/greatwhalecount/, with additional information at pacificwhale.org.

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